ALDS Game 1: Rays 6, White Sox 4

October 3, 2008 at 12:47 am | Posted in Baseball, My Cards, Rays | Leave a comment

What a thrill it was this afternoon to see a playoff game, an actual playoff game, being played at Tropicana Field.  I’ve always been a baseball fan, and I watch the playoffs and the World Series every year, but the experience of watching the post-season games is so much more exciting when it’s your team that’s out there trying to win a championship!  I haven’t really had that experience since 1995 in my waning days as a Yankees fan when they lost a classic ALDS series to Seattle.

There haven’t been many moments in sports that have ever affected me the way that Evan Longoria’s 2nd inning home run (his first of 2 in the game) did today.  That home run gave the Rays a 1-0 lead and had me running around my living room, jumping up and down, yelling and screaming for several minutes.  My cat was terrified!  At that moment, every Rays fan was assured that the magic of the 2008 season wasn’t going to end now that we were in the unchartered territory of the playoffs.

If you read my previous post, you know that I was worried about the quality of the TBS announcers.  They weren’t as bad as I had feared, although Harold Reynolds expressed his surprise at the quality and depth of the Rays roster many times, making it clear that he hadn’t paid much attention to them this year.  He kept talking about his experiences with the Mariners 20 years ago and comparing it to what the Rays went through as an expansion team struggling to compete.  At least he only called them the Devil Rays once, and both announcers quit saying that they were in Tampa early in the game after all of the beautiful aerial shots of the St. Pete waterfront.  It’s rare to catch a glimpse of what it looks like outside during a Rays home game, and if shots like that continue to be shown, I’m going to be very tempted to pack up and move down there with my wife.  It is a beautiful area, and if I lived there, I’d sign up for season tickets in a heartbeat!

So here are the heroes of the game, and some of my favorite cards from my collection of those players:

James Shields, who showed why he is the Rays ace, pitching 6 1/3 innings with only one mistake (a three-run home run hit by Dewayne Wise):

2008 Upper Deck Premier "Premier Remnants" #04/25

2008 Upper Deck Premier "Premier Remnants" #04/25

Grant Balfour, who came into the game in the 7th inning with the bases loaded and 1 out, and then struck out the two batters that he faced to preserve the lead:

2004 Topps Total

2004 Topps Total

Balfour, by the way, is without a doubt the best middle reliever in MLB.  After starting the season with the Durham Bulls, look at the numbers that he put up for the Rays:
1.54 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 82 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings, 6 wins, 4 saves, 14 holds

Carl Crawford, who was a sight for sore eyes playing in his first game since August 9, had an RBI single in the 5th inning:

2007 Upper Deck Exquisite "Signature Materials" #13/50

2007 Upper Deck Exquisite "Signature Materials" #13/50

This card, of course, is a 1/1 because its serial number (13) is the same as Crawford’s uniform number!  Right, Gellman?

Akinori Iwamura, who keyed the Rays’ third inning rally with a run scoring triple, and went 2-4:

2007 Upper Deck Ultimate "Future Signatures" #22/25

2007 Upper Deck Ultimate "Future Signatures" #22/25

And of course, Evan Longoria, who hit home runs in his first two post-season at bats, and went 3-3 with 3 RBI.  When he came up for the 4th time, the White Sox were afraid to pitch to him:

2008 Topps Triple Threads #7/9

2008 Topps Triple Threads #7/9

I can’t wait for Game 2 tomorrow night with Scott Kazmir on the mound!

I also recommend checking out the White Sox Cards blog to get some great perspective from a White Sox fan and collector.

Finally, I am curious; if you don’t normally watch the Rays, but you saw today’s game, what did you think about the team?  How did you like Tropicana Field as a playoff venue?  I’d love to know what some non-biased fans think about the Rays chances in the post-season…

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